EESC backs suspension of ‘ghost flights’

It should apply for the entire duration of the 2020 summer-time schedule

The EESC is throwing its support behind the Commission's proposal to temporarily suspend the EU regulations on airport slot allocation in light of the coronavirus outbreak. MEPs will voted on the topic on Thursday afternoon. 

The Committee points out that the suspension should apply until the end of the 2020 summer-time schedule and that this urgent measure should be part of a much wider package to enable the EU aviation sector to recover after the coronavirus crisis.

The suspension would provide planning stability for airlines. It is highly unrealistic to assume that air carriers could at the present time plan for a resumption of their full summer schedule as of June, said the EESC President, Luca Jahier. We must bear in mind that the EU needs to take major steps to support and protect Member States' economies, businesses and workers to limit the damage of the coronavirus crisis and support the recovery, he added.

The EESC takes a firm stand in the position paper adopted on 25 March 2020 and drafted by EESC member Thomas Kropp. The rapid, sudden and unexpected decline in the demand of air services is placing the aviation sector under significant pressure when it comes to maintaining liquidity and this is coupled with the effects of the ongoing uncertainty about the further escalation of the crisis, said Mr Kropp. The proposed slot waiver would give airlines planning stability in the coming months and provide them with clear guidance on how to proceed with regard to the summer schedule starting on 29 March 2020.

According to the EESC, the proposed suspension should apply at least until 24 October 2020, namely for the entire duration of the 2020 summer-time schedule. This would provide planning stability for airlines. The coronavirus outbreak is having a historically unprecedented and exponentially growing impact on supply and demand for air services on a global scale, the Committee members underlined.

Following the exponential spread of the virus and the increasing severity of the measures proposed by governments to contain it, demand for air services is declining very quickly. On 21 March 2020, there were 66% fewer flights than on the same day in 2019. On that particular day, traffic in the major European aviation markets was down 91% in Italy, 76% in Spain, 74% in France, 66% in Germany, 57% in the Netherlands and 59% in the UK. Air carriers have increasingly had to reduce capacity and ground aircraft. In several EU Member States, entire airlines have been grounded. 

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